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By Miriam Raftery

May 15, 2019 (San Diego) -- Victims who were sexually abused as children by priests in California may soon be eligible for compensation by the Roman Catholic Church – but only if they agree not to sue.

Anyone who previously settled a lawsuit will also be excluded, but those barred from suing due to statutes of limitations can apply for compensation. Victims would be eligible regardless of their immigration status.

The San Diego diocese, along with the dioceses in Los Angeles, Fresno, Orange, San Bernardino and Sacramento counties, have announced that they are creating a victims compensation fund. The program will only cover abuse alleged against priests in those five regions, not other diocese employees.

Bishop Robert McElroy from the San Diego diocese issued a statement which reads, “No amount of money can make up for the evil done to victims of priestly sex abuse, but we can and must finish the job of compensating victim/survivors for the wrong that was done to them whenever it took place.”

The six dioceses expect their program to be up by summer and administered independently by a Washington D.C. law firm headed up by Ken Feinberg.  KPBS reports that the program would also have an oversight board including former California Governor Gray Davis and Maria Contreras-Sweet, a former administrator at the U.S.  Small Business Administration.

But a support group for clergy abuse victims is asking for a voice in compensation programs being set up by California Catholic officials.

Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are writing to Feinberg’s firm, requesting the opportunity to meet regarding church-designed and run compensation programs. SNAP’s letter states, “Let us share our experiences to help create a program that will benefit survivors instead of hurt them.”